Art is a fun way to learn anything, but when you’re on the road, it can become a fabulous way to look at your travels through different perspectives. The next time you go somewhere, ask if there’s a local workshop you can join to learn a little more about where you are. We’ve got a few people who can start you off. Some of these artists run workshops that you can track online, and plan your travel around them, while others will take you on if you just let them know that you’re in town. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but we’ll keep adding to this one.
Hemlata Pradhan runs a Natural History Art School (yet to be registered formally), which offers an education to children at the grassroots. Located in the village of Relli, in the mountains of Darjeeling district, this is a beautiful place to learn more about nature. As a traveller, whether individual or in a group, you’d be very welcome to join in for the informal weekend classes or even to simply interact with the children. Pradhan encourages an exchange of knowledge and would be delighted if you’d like to share your expertise with the children. At the school, you can learn about a fairly specialised (and unrecognised) field of art: botanical illustration (drawing and painting plants). You can read about Hemlata’s wonderful work here and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sangeetha Kadur runs workshops for children and adults in Bengaluru through GreenScraps. Before moving to a particular form, Kadur insists that you first learn the art of seeing nature, as understanding nature is important if you’re going to reproduce it accurately. She teaches through a combination of art, science and storytelling. Most of Sangeetha’s classes take place in the summer but you should track schedules here if you’d like to plan around it. You could also email her at email@example.com.
Bonus: If you’re in Bengaluru, The Sristhi Institute of Art, Design and Technology has recently introduced botanical illustration as a discipline.
Meenakshi does beautiful intricate paintings of nature. She usually works with acrylic painting techniques. The classes are on for most of the year, but you should check for availability at least a month ahead. Meenakshi encourages children (9 years and above; accompanied by adults) to paint nature. She insists on a walk in nature, included in the six-hour class. For adults, she focuses on training the mind to paint from memory, especially scenic impressions, creating texture and manipulation of shade and light. Her ideas are based purely on freeing the mind and using fingers as an extension of the imagination. Media include pen, acrylic on canvas, and watercolour. For group size, individual classes, art material and other details, email Meenakshi at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can see some of her work here.
Mahesh runs a shop, an art gallery and a school in Bandhavgarh, where he sells the prints he paints. He teaches full-time from October to June. He usually teaches the children from the village, and he charges nothing at all from them, even providing materials himself. He hasn’t really seen too much interest from tourists, but we would suggest you consider paying for his services if you do choose to go to him. There isn’t a class structure in place, he will gauge your skill set and decide an appropriate session. Mahesh’s shop is open from 7a.m.-9p.m. See his work here and contact him at 0-9753070060.
Murlidhar holds classes from May to June during the summer holidays. He has been teaching for 30 years. Like Mahesh, he doesn’t charge anything and does not operate under fixed timings, as his studio and house are in the same building. He believes that the basic foundation takes only a few hours to learn, after which it depends on your interpretation and the hours you put in for practice. He has taught art to the villagers in the area, who now sell their own work. A great empowerment model from someone who firmly believes that everyone is an artist. Look at Murlidhar’s work here and call him at 0-9414030839.
Sejal Mehta is a writer and editor. She is consultant editor at Marine Life of Mumbai, and writes about science, wildlife, travel, fiction and is a published author of children's books. Her past work includes Lonely Planet Magazine India, National Geographic Traveller India, Nature inFocus.